In a move for greater inclusivity, Dictionary.com have announced that they will now be using gender-neutral terms like“they” or “their” instead of “he or she” or “his or her” in entries where there’s no reason to be specific about gender, or where the language can be streamlined. In some cases, pronouns will be omitted altogether if they’re unnecessary.
As well as terms like they/them, the online dictionary also added 566 new entries, including words that you might be less familiar with like, woke, greenwashing, atmospheric river, nepo baby, generative AI, GPT, shower orange, and NIL (the abbreviation of name, image, likeness). Grant Barrett, head of lexicography said that some word trends flame out fast, so new words aren’t added to until they’ve “proven” themselves.
Some examples include the definition of folk singer, which appeared with binary-gendered pronouns: "a singer who specializes folk songs, usually providing his or her own accompaniment on a guitar." The new version replaces the pronouns with "their."
The entry for volunteer, previously defined as "a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking," now appears without any pronoun as "a person who voluntarily offers to perform a service or undertaking."
Grant Barrett, head of lexicography at Dictionary.com, told media outlets that the move reflects a broader shift in all forms of publishing that's been building for the last decade.
Barrett said that "they" is a signal to readers that any gender identity can be represented in an entry, including nonbinary and gender nonconforming.
"Using 'they' is not only good grammar and fits neatly into what English allows, but it also fits neatly into accepting and embracing the way more people see themselves," Grant Barrett said.
The change does not direct readers to use "they" instead of "he or she" in their own speech. Existing entries will be updated over time.